Obama Savors Health Care Victory, Prepares For Tough Road Ahead
The Washington Post: President Barack Obama is planning to "begin an immediate public relations blitz aimed at turning around Americans' opinion of the health-care bill. Reshaping the legislation's image will take place in three phases, White House aides said: the immediate aftermath; the seven months until the November midterm elections; and the several years that follow, during which many provisions in the measure will gradually take effect." Democratic lawmakers are also going to be given fact sheets to talk about health reform on their Easter vacations, aides told The Washington Post. In addition, the president plans to take several trips "to counter what Democrats expect will be an onslaught of criticism and misinformation about the overhaul" (Shear, 3/22).
The BBC has video and the text of Obama's remarks, delivered Sunday after the vote. "So this isn't radical reform. But it is major reform. This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system. But it moves us decisively in the right direction. This is what change looks like," Obama said (3/22).
The New York Times, in an analysis: "After the bitterest of debates, Mr. Obama proved that he was willing to fight for something that moved him to his core. At the core of Mr. Obama's strategy stands a bet that the Republicans, in trying to portray the bill as veering toward socialism, overplayed their hand. Fueled by the antigovernment anger of the Tea Party movement, Republicans have staked much on the idea that they can protect the country by acting as what the Democrats gleefully call the 'Party of No.'" White House advisers say Republicans only would have won if health reform would have failed, "(b)ut there is no doubt that in the course of this debate, Mr. Obama has lost something - and lost it for good. Gone is the promise on which he rode to victory less than a year and a half ago - the promise of a 'postpartisan' Washington." In comments made late Sunday after the House passed the bill, "Mr. Obama acknowledged the political uncertainties ahead even as ... he marked the moment shortly before midnight at the White House" (Sanger, 3/21).
Los Angeles Times: "In the months ahead, Obama will face the question of whether his healthcare victory is a high-water mark for a now-exhausted administration, or instead becomes the leaping-off point for victories on other big issues, such as energy, immigration and financial regulation. But what became clear in the healthcare debate is that Obama is a president with a combative stubbornness, one that was not often visible in his cool, above-the-fray public demeanor. And he has demonstrated that a president who picks a goal, adopts a battle plan and sticks with it, come what may, is not easy to knock out" (Nicholas, 3/22).
Politico: "The administration also views the victory as a lift-all-boats event that will lend new life to Obama's legislative agenda - freeing him up to focus largely on economic issues, including more jobs-related legislation, particularly focusing on small businesses, and financial regulatory reform" (Thursh and Lee, 3/21).
The Boston Globe, on some of the hazards related to Obama's apparent success: "The package is still a risk, even if it is signed into law. If people are unhappy with how the plan is working over the next few years, Obama's reelection and legacy are at stake, said Ross Baker, a Rutgers University political science professor" (Milligan, 3/22).
Roll Call: Not all lawmakers were swayed by Obama. "Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) ... said Friday that he had been ignoring phone calls from the White House that were presumably about his vote. 'With all due respect to the president, I've got to look at what's best in my district. Whether he's popular or not popular in my district, I don't want to get into that,' Cuellar said. 'At the end of the day, when we take a vote, he's not going to be out there supporting me running my election'" (Bendery, 3/22).